Friday, April 28, 2006

Two insightful but sobering links

Both are from Vin Crosbie, a consultant and former wire service executive and daily newspaper publisher. Crosbie's a bit of a bomb-thrower -- in the good, wake up and look at what is happening around you way.

The first post, "A Date with the Butcher," suggests perhaps the newspaper business does not have even as much time (till 2044) as Phil Meyer has provocatively proposed.

I'm a bit more sanguine than Crosbie if only because I tend to define "newspaper" more in terms of the type of newsroom and not the presentation format (and I think "print" will be around in a severely slimmed form as part of a radically different mix of output from those newsrooms). I think at some point publishers will shed much of that cost structure Crosbie discusses; for instance, I expect that in the next 10 years more organizations that intend to stay in the news business will turn their presses and buildings over to contract publishers who can be much more skilled at matching resources to output, unburdened by running a newsroom. (Likewise, those newsroom operators can be more skilled at matching resources to revenue, which includes, I believe, many more freelancers and fewer core staff. TV has fewer challenges in that respect because its equipment and space is fairly fungible, although it faces other issues related to the shrinking role of the middleman.)

But read Crosbie's take on it because it makes clear some stark realities that must be faced.

The second post tries to define New Media with a reminder that newspapers are not "media" any more than radio or TV or stone tablets. Stripped to its essentials, Crosbie's argument that there are just three media -- interpersonal, mass and "new" -- helps cut through the clutter of using "print" as an icon for all things "good" in news. It's not true and never has been.

It also raises some fascinating questions, such as whether "print" can ever be transformed from a mass to a "new" medium (or should it be)? Is digitization (and the resulting potential introduction of interaction and individualization) through things such as e-paper enough? Will there be a residual need for a "mass" medium as there has remained a need for an interpersonal medium? Or does this "new" medium that combines features of both obviate the need for one or both of its predecessors?

Is a "new" medium that brings together aspects of both mass and individual really a new medium or just a technologically enhanced mashup of its predecessors?

Worthy questions, all. Read the whole post. Crosbie, who sees a "semantic" future, can be very persuasive.


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